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How do composers deal with large DAW projects for film? Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 3rd August 2014
  #1
Gear Head
 

How do composers deal with large DAW projects for film?

(NOTE: I'm using Cubase).

It's pretty common for a film to have recurring themes or even repeated phrases, and I can easily see how one would like to import the whole film into a DAW and score right to it. I've heard of many people who've tried doing this, but come up against crashes and projects getting corrupted because the project (as you can guess) is so huge (I mean, you're packing a whole film score into one project!)

I was just wondering... do film composers actually score the whole film in one project only? Do they break it up for each scene?

If the latter is true... what do composers do to keep that consistency throughout the score (similar themes, similar orchestration/instruments, maybe needing to copy/paste something from earlier, ect.)

This can easily apply to concept albums or other long works of music.

Again, I'm using Cubase, so if there are any particular tricks or features built-in to the program to promote working easily between two projects (ability to share tracks and such), please let me know!
Old 3rd August 2014
  #2
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

I always score each cue as a separate DAW project (song). To maintain a consistent set of instruments throughout all the 60-80 cues, you make use of templates. If you're doing big orchestral simulation, then many folks use Vienna Ensemble Pro to host the hundreds of Kontakt instruments in a separate application from the DAW - this acts almost like a rack of external hardware, so the same instruments stay loaded as you switch from cue to cue in the DAW. I take the same approach even when I'm just using Logic without VEP - at the start of the project I create a single master song that is the template from which all the cues will be derived. This template song has all the instruments I'm likely to use already loaded, with individual channel eq and compression already in place, mix levels already set, and all the reverbs, delays, bussing, routing, stem sub-masters, and mastering effects already in place and set up. Then, for each cue, I load the template and "Save As…" or else just load the previous cue and "Save As…".

Trying to do the whole project in one DAW "song" is too messy. Creating tempo and meter maps, moving cues around to accommodate changes in picture - forget about it. You really have to break the thing up into as many small chunks as possible.

To maintain the musical ideas across multiple cues, well… just know the music you've written and play the correct parts in the correct spots. If that's too much hassle, just load up a cue and "Save As…." to clone it for a new location, or copy a bunch of tracks to the clipboard, close that song and open the destination song, and then paste.

Since I use ProTools running on a separate machine as my layback recorder (aka mix down deck), I've got the mixes for the whole project there - when two cues need to overlap, and I'm working on the second one, I can hear the end of the first cue playing from PT as the second cue is starting. Simple. If I'm not using the PT machine (sometimes I don't bother when working on TV shows) I just bounce the ending of the first cue and then import it into the second cue as audio. I always leave 4 or 8 bars of empty space at the start of every cue so I have room to drop the ending of the earlier cue if I need to hear the overlap.

For me, a typical film score has 60-80 separate song files (cues) and a typical hour-long tv episode has around 40. No freaking way would I try to do it all in one DAW project.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #3
I guess it mostly depends on how you're comfortable & how you can make it possible.Also its on Writing the Score as well.How you prefer to write it? A Song File for each Scene or a File for the Entire Film, alhough you can split them in your DAW.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #4
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narcoman's Avatar
 

A lot of people seem to score reels these days. That tends to be what I get delivered - PT of Logic or Nuendo sessions in "reels".
Old 3rd August 2014
  #5
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Amber's Avatar
 

Yes, much easier to do it in sections. Makes changes a ton easier as well.

I put together a suite of music ideas, themes etc and put together a load of instrument layers that I think I'll want to use and see if the sound is what the director is going for. What I'll do with this suite is make this my template for that project (and sometimes other things if I think it'll work) and do save as etc like Charlie said.

Often I'll find something in the suite of music that will work for a scene that might need stripping back or building up with maybe a tempo change etc.

Right now, I'm doing this based on a script I've been sent and score references are Drive and Crash. So I'll put together a template based on this and then some extras and use this to start each cue if the whole thing goes ahead.

I don't do the full orchestral mock sound though. There's one composer who has an interesting approach. He's on Facebook. Scott Glasgow. He will have all his orchestral sections in his template, then will have an extra folder of instruments specific to that project.

I like the way I read you can deactivate tracks in Pro Tools. I'd love to load up everything deactivated. Can't seem to find a way to do this in Logic.
Old 4th August 2014
  #6
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drBill's Avatar
Separate session for each cue. As charlie mentioned. Import tracks for derivative cues works well. As does hosting your VI's using VEP so you don't have to quit and re-load 10-20 or more GB of samples every time you switch cues. Templates are mandatory unless you have a year to score the film....

Amber - if you're deactivating VI's in PT it still wants to claim the ram they would use. It figures you will turn them back ON at some point. So although it's handy for keeping the session uncluttered, it's only KIND OF helpful on the RAM front.
Old 4th August 2014
  #7
Gear Addict
 

Separate projects for each cue. I couldn't even imagine the headache of using just one project for the whole score.
Old 4th August 2014
  #8
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Amber's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post

Amber - if you're deactivating VI's in PT it still wants to claim the ram they would use. It figures you will turn them back ON at some point. So although it's handy for keeping the session uncluttered, it's only KIND OF helpful on the RAM front.
Ah, that would be a great option to have. Maybe a snapshot of a channel strip dulled out to let you know it's deactivated. That way you could have everything there (without a slave). I know you could save channel strip settings etc, but this'd be great.
Old 4th August 2014
  #9
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Sam Watson's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
I like the way I read you can deactivate tracks in Pro Tools. I'd love to load up everything deactivated. Can't seem to find a way to do this in Logic.
There is Hide track in Logic (Ctrl-H) which takes it out of the arrange window but it is still active. If you want to deactivate a track & regain some of the resources then you could use the Freeze button. Hit Play and then immediately hit Command-. (Command-Period). That cancels out of the freeze mixdown. At that point you would have a very short freeze file and all the plugins for the channel strip would be bypassed thus regaining the system resources. A work around but it achieves the desired result.

And yes, I too use separate session files for writing. And then have a master sequence into which I drop the music stems for creating preview mixes and longer stringout previews etc.

Best,
Sam
Old 6th August 2014
  #10
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How do you guys integrate the separate cues in the master project when thinking about sync/tempo mapping? do you rewrite the separate cues to fit in the master project or use audio files with some time stretch?
Old 6th August 2014
  #11
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drBill's Avatar
Master Project??? Do not understand what you're asking.
Old 6th August 2014
  #12
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I don't know if there is a name for it. Master project is the DAW file that will contains all cues in sync with the movie.
Old 6th August 2014
  #13
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by aresende View Post
I don't know if there is a name for it. Master project is the DAW file that will contains all cues in sync with the movie.
First, each cue is "in sync" with the movie which has been imported and spotted correctly into in each DAW session - although generally, you just have a bit before and after the scene you're working on in case start time changes or you want to extend a cue. So you may end up with 30-40+ sessions per film. Then....

Generally (there are always exceptions) :

1. Composer writes in individual sessions for each cue/scene. Mixer imports into PT and mixes from these sessions and prints stems. 30-40+ cues with multiple 5.1 stems (Orchestra, Synths, Percussion, Soloists, Rhythm Section, etc.) per film. This can and does often add up to hundreds if not thousands of tracks. Organization is key here....

2. Then after (or during) the mix, the Music Editor imports the mixed stems into his PT sessions (usually) 1-5 "reels" sessions that correspond to the film editors "reels". 2pops and VITC make frame accurate edits a breeze and the 2 pops are a safety net to make sure all is good sync wise - from top to bottom of each reel.

3. If after the fact editing needs to be done, the music editor does it in each PT session "reel" - re-conforming to picture changes on a "per reel" basis so it's not as big and complicated as having everything in one huge session.

4. Dub stage mixes in "reels" as well, and the music editors DAW session will either be imported into the mixers PT session, or if there are lots of changes, the Music Editors DAW will run "in sync" so it can be easily pulled "offline" to accommodate changes and edits while the mix crew continues to mix.

This is the "traditional" approach.
Old 6th August 2014
  #14
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aresende View Post
I don't know if there is a name for it. Master project is the DAW file that will contains all cues in sync with the movie.
I've done it before - but usually keep it as reels. Projects of that size have their own unique issues that neither Steinberg, Cakewalk, Apple or Avid have addressed!!
Old 29th August 2014
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

I've worked on several large films and can tell you what my experience has been. First of all, the Hollywood stuff always has many ghostwriters so its multiple DAWs being worked on. The composer will write some theme music ahead of time sometimes called suites. Often sound designers, percussionists, and other orchestrators are hired to precreate sounds and loops. For action movies you can have percussion loops prerecorded. Patches for softsynths. Sound effects and strings effects for horror movies. These are distributed among the writers along with the suites so everyone can work with the same tools as a basis.

Every cue is a separate project in your DAW. You just use timecode to sync up to the video. Generally we use a separate machine running Pro Tools to act as a VTR. You don't want to waste time messing with video in your project for each cue. Just load the video into PT once and feed it timecode.

There will be tons of revisions for each cue and even more versions of picture so forget about using one project file. The music editor will do the final sync to picture; you only have to maintain sync within each cue.

Anyway the short answer is that you create things you will want to reuse before you start scoring
Old 28th July 2016
  #16
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Nystagmus's Avatar
This is very interesting! Thanks for the honest, thorough answers.
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